Naphat Boontanonda has two jobs that cannot possibly be further apart from each other.
While half of her week is dedicated to her work at an oil refinery company, the other half is spent nurturing flowers. It's just like balancing her life with both science and art, she reflects.
"My work at the oil company is quite straightforward - everything is systematic, reliable and predictable. Working with flowers, as well as the people at the resort, is more like an art," Naphat said about her recently opened hospitality venture - Dasada the Flower Es'Senses Resort.
Dasada is the brainchild of Naphat's uncle, Dr Pavares Boontanonda, who initially bought the plot of land in Prachinburi just because he wanted to be close to nature. He loved growing orchids, and his orchids were renowned for their exquisite beauty.
He then grew more flowers, and little by little over a period of seven years, his hobby had turned into vast flower fields, with mesmerising rare beauties - phalaenopsis, calla lily, anthurium and more - flourishing around the 800 rai plot.
The flowers grown here are so beautiful that they wanted to share them with the rest of the world, so they started exporting some. As the business grew, so did the variety of the flowers, and their beauty inspired Naphat to experiment with the idea of opening a flower "gallery".
"It was a big challenge, considering this is not a popular spot, but I went ahead with it anyway. I wanted to showcase our beautiful flowers, and I believed that if the product was good enough, people would come," Naphat said of the Dasada Gallery, which is located on the same land as the flower nursery. She was right to trust her intuition. The word got out and soon Dasada Gallery became a must-go destination.
"Usually, people pass through Prachinburi on their way to other provinces. I was very happy to learn that a lot of people made it a point to come here just to see the flowers. That, in itself, is a big enough success for me," she said. Initially, the gallery was opened only periodically, but that stretched longer and longer as each year went by.
To cater to the growing number of visitors, she came up with the idea to open a small coffee shop, La Lalla, right in the gallery. Of course, this being a flower-inspired place, every element has to reflect that. The tea is specially blended to exude floral scents. The ice cream is flavoured with real flowers, co-created by famous ice cream designer Prima Chakrabhandhu Na Ayudhya. This is because, Naphat explained, they aim to put flowers in everything, including the taste.
The people who travelled to the gallery often said they wished they could spend the night there, and that planted a seed of an idea for Naphat and her uncle. They decided to go ahead and build a flower-themed resort less than a year ago and dubbed it the "Flower Es'Senses Resort", meaning every essence of the resort is inspired by flowers. They even use flowers in some of their food.
Speaking of food, quite strangely, Dasada boasts the freshest seafood as its highlight, despite the fact that Prachinburi is not a seaside province. Naphat explained that it is because the trucks that deliver flowers to Bangkok, instead of running back empty, stop by to get fuel at Samut Sakhon and bring fresh seafood back. "We don't want to waste the fuel cost, and this way our guests can enjoy delicious seafood even when they are far away from the sea."
With her background in political science, a master's degree in marketing, and her work with at the oil refinery company, Naphat did not imagine she would be managing a resort or working with flowers. She welcomed the challenges, nevertheless.
"It is all very new for me, but I grew up around my uncle, and he worked very hard, which means I was always there when he was working. He would take me on business trips overseas as well. It was like being an intern from a very young age. One thing I really admire about him is the fact that he never sees a problem. Whatever difficulty he is facing, it is never a problem - just something that needs to be addressed. He always tells me there is never a dead end.
"There are always solutions," said Naphat, adding that she would always give any difficulty some time and it would just turn out fine like her uncle said.
That optimism from her uncle has obviously rubbed off on her, as Naphat exuded positivity while she spoke. It was also impressive how she talked about her flowers, in a way, like a mother talking about her children, knowing every little detail about them like the back of her hand - how each of them came into Dasada, which flower likes which temperature and humidity, and what makes each of them "sad". Flowers might be natural, but to make sure they bear beautiful blooms is not easy.
"They need reverse osmosis water. The temperature and humidity must be controlled all day. The soil, the fertiliser, the sunlight - everything has to be just right. Like people, they need special care in order to thrive well," she explained. The expertise and good care result in exquisite flowers demanded by local and foreign markets alike.
To make sure she knows as much about flowers as possible, Naphat would sometimes walk around the flower markets at the break of dawn, or go overseas to see what flowers could be grown at Dasada.
"Although I try to split my time equally between my two jobs, I must say that taking care of Dasada is more time-consuming, but all the more rewarding as well," Naphat said of Dasada, which now incorporates a flowery nursery, flower imports, a gallery, a cafe, two restaurants, a resort and a mini zoo. At present, she is working on the two-month exhibition at Dasada Gallery, interestingly themed "Floral Coral", meshing the underwater world with the beauty of flowers.
The exhibition is divided into three phases - Flower Ocean from Dec 5-22, Underwater X'Mas from Dec 23 to Jan 31, and Pink Ocean from Feb 1-17. It is the biggest event the gallery has ever seen.
Dasada is planning to expand, which will definitely generate more traffic to the resort. However, Naphat said that actually, she wants it the other way round.
"We are adding more rooms to our resort, and it's not just because we want to expand, but I just think that the more people come to Dasada, the longer the gallery can open. I would just love it if we could have exhibitions all year round, because the flowers are truly beautiful.
There are resorts everywhere in the world, but the flower exhibitions here are unique, and I really hope more people can come and have a chance to see them," said Naphat wishfully, but with definite positivity in her tone.
Floral Coral Flowers Festival at Dasada Gallery, until Feb 17, is divided into three phases: Flower Ocean until Dec 22, Underwater X'Mas from Dec 23 to Jan 31, and Pink Ocean from Feb 1 to 17.
About the author
- Writer: Napamon Roongwitoo
Position: Outlook Writer